The Surging Growth of Mountain Running: A Conversation with Turlough Conway of IMRA

February 27, 2024

Mountain running has witnessed a significant surge in popularity in recent years, and the Irish Mountain Running Association (IMRA) has been at the forefront of this growth. In a recent interview with Turlough Conway, a representative of IMRA, insights were shared regarding the remarkable increase in participation, the changing demographics of mountain runners, and the challenges and opportunities that come with this upward trend.

IMRA, the governing body for mountain running in Ireland, has experienced a noteworthy rise in participation numbers. A quick visit to the IMRA website reveals an interesting trend – a substantial portion of the participants fall into the masters category, with around 80% of them being over 40. While this may suggest that mountain running is becoming a favourite pastime for middle-aged individuals, it also highlights the need for a more diverse participant base to ensure sustainability.

Conway emphasises the importance of inclusivity in sustaining the growth of mountain running. While the numbers are increasing, there is a need to attract participants from various age groups and backgrounds. This inclusivity, Conway notes, is essential for the long-term health of the sport.

One notable observation is the increasing number of people engaging in walking as a hobby. Conway acknowledges this trend and sees it as an opportunity to introduce more individuals to mountain running. By actively targeting those who enjoy walking, mountain running organisations can tap into a broader demographic and encourage a natural progression from walking to more challenging and adventurous pursuits.

Conway points out the emergence of private races, particularly in the Connacht and northwest regions of Ireland. The Seven Sisters race in Donegal is highlighted as a significant event in this regard. Additionally, the growth of ultra running within IMRA is emphasised, reflecting a broader trend in the running community towards longer and more challenging races. The allure of ultra races adds a new dimension to mountain running, attracting enthusiasts seeking the ultimate endurance challenges.

The growth of mountain running, as highlighted by Turlough Conway of IMRA, is a testament to the sport's increasing popularity. The shifting demographics, the emphasis on inclusivity, the rise of private races, and the surge in ultra running all contribute to the vibrant landscape of mountain running in Ireland. As organisations continue to address challenges and capitalise on opportunities, the future looks promising for this exhilarating sport.

Featured Image: Galway Trail Running